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Author Topic:   Iran students call for release of jailed activists
Vatandoost
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posted January 22, 2001 12:12     Click Here to See the Profile for Vatandoost   Click Here to Email Vatandoost     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
By Ali Raiss-Tousi

TEHRAN, Jan 20 (Reuters) - Iran's main reformist student group on Saturday called for the release of activists jailed by the hardline Revolutionary Court for their participation in a conference on Iran's reforms in Berlin last year.

Student leader Ali Afshari, who attended the conference, had been "kidnapped" from prison and was under interrogation in at undisclosed
location, his colleagues at the Office to Consolidate Unity (OCU) told reporters.

"Nobody knows where he has been taken, we have talked to prison authorities and even the parliament," said OCU activist Amir Hossein Balali. "We are concerned for his safety. The judge will not give a proper
answer to his attorney or family."

Colleagues say the authorities have not revealed Afshari's whereabouts, but one official said earlier he was in a secure location, apparently controlled by the elite Revolutionary Guards.

Afshari went missing some 15 days after being sent into "temporary" confinement for a campus speech he made after his return from Germany last year. Students say hardliners in the judiciary want him to "confess".

"We believe he may be under psychological and physical pressure in order to make so-called confessions," Balali said.

Iran's security and judicial apparatus is controlled by hardliners bitterly opposed to the creation of a modern civil society which the embattled reformist students and political activists demand.

"These methods like showing televised confessions or holding kangaroo courts will not work any more," said another student activist. "If they were successful, the Soviet Union which employed the very same methods would not have collapsed."

Afshari had earlier been sentenced to four and a half years in jail for attending the conference in Berlin which hardliners had deemed "un-Islamic" and a threat to national security. He received an additional six months for a related offence.

At least six other participants at the conference received prison terms ranging from four to 10 years, while others received suspended sentences.

"Attending conferences is not a crime anywhere, these people were sentenced because of their support for reforms over the last years," said OCU activist Ahmad Faraji. "The Berlin conference was just an excuse."

The students said hardliners had just changed their methods in cracking down on dissent. The old method of physical elimination of dissidents had given way to imposing long prison sentences to remove the reformers and
their ideas from society.

The Office, which boasts some 50,000 members throughout Iran, has recently teetered on the brink of a split, with radicals demanding more direct action in support of stalled reform and moderates with a wait-and-see
attitude, calling for calm.

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